Woman traces long-lost ring to Boston relative

05/04/2013 8:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Dale Realander with her 98-year-old mother, Gerd Stilwagen, at Ms. Stilwagen’s Riverhead home, where Ms. Realander found a gold ring while gardening around a newly built ramp.

Finders keepers, right?

Not for Dale Realander of Riverhead. For her, it’s finders get the item appraised, track down the original owner (while tracing his family lineage to the 1800s) and the owner’s grandson to reunite him with the long-lost heirloom.

“I saw something sparkling,” Ms. Realander said of a recent morning when she was at the Riverhead home of her mother, Gerda Stilwagen, gardening. Picking up the item, she realized she was holding a ring.

“It was a man’s ring, a signet ring with the initials J.F.,” Ms. Realander said.

COURTESY PHOTO | The ring, valued at $2,500, was later found to belong to the late John Farrington.

The initials were set in black onyx, and the ring was 14-carat gold. The sparkle came from a “good sized” diamond, one of good quality she later found out when she had a jeweler examine the ring.

Her mom’s home is in Glenwood Village, a manufactured home park where Ms. Realander also lives. Her mother had recently had a ramp installed, which required a good amount of digging.

Ms. Realander said she had just been trying to make sense of the mess left behind.

As for the ring, she knew right away it didn’t belong to her mother, who’s been living in the home for close to 20 years.

“The ring was well-worn,” she noted, which moved her to try to find its owner.

She spoke with Glenwood Village’s director and soon learned that only John and Edna Farrington had owned the home before her mom.

“This sounded like a mystery I could solve,” she said. “I wore the ring for three or four days, feeling, maybe I would be guided to find the proper owner.”

Her mother remembered that a Ferrington relative from Connecticut had sold her the home, after Mr. Farrington died and Ms. Farrington needed care in a nursing home. The park director was able to give Ms. Realander the name of a grandson, Douglas Farrington, along with a few old Connecticut numbers on file from the home sale. It took about four days for Ms. Realander to track down Douglas Farrington.

“I noticed one man with that name had gone to college in Connecticut and did graduate work there,” she said. “I found that he now lives in Boston.”

On a whim, Ms. Realander phoned him and asked if he knew anyone in Riverhead.

“Well, yes,” Douglas Farrington said.

He spoke the two names Ms. Realander wanted to hear. His grandparents had moved into the home in the early 70’s and had lived there for well over 20 years, he said.

Mr. Farrington did not recall his grandfather’s wearing the ring, but his mother did. “She was able to describe it.

“No one quite knew when he lost it,” he said, nor is much more known about the ring itself.

Within a few days, the ring, valued at $2,500, was on its way to Mr. Farrington in Boston.

“She had to go to some effort to track me down,” Mr. Farrington said. “It was really a tremendously nice thing to do.”

The ring’s history is what truly sparked Ms. Realander’s curiosity. She has been interested in genealogy for some time and is a member of German Genealogy Group, an international group that works to preserve genealogical information, she said.

And through her research, she was able to trace the Farringtons’ family history back to the 1800’s.

“Pass it forward is what I believe,” she said. “People said you could sell it, but I got the feeling that it belonged to someone. It is an heirloom, and maybe Douglas has a son who he can pass it on to. For it to stay in the family is what I was hoping.”

That is exactly what Mr. Farrington intends to do with it.

“It is a little tight for my fingers,” he said. “At this point I plan on showing it to my kids when they are around and we’ll see what happens. We’ll enjoy and appreciate it somehow, some way.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

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